Shuffle - John R. Bolton
Economist: What do you think of the Obama administration's acceptance of Iran's offer to hold broad talks on security issues?
Mr. Bolton: Iran is not going to be talked out of its nuclear-weapons programme. The EU-3 have been negotiating with Iran for close to seven years, the net effect of which is that Iran is now seven years closer to a deliverable nuclear-weapons capability. Time is an asset that works in favour of would-be nuclear proliferators, and negotiations give them that asset for free, allowing proliferators to make progress under the cover of "diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem". In fact, the negotiations not only don't solve the problem, they contribute to making it worse.
Economist: Would you be willing to trade a security guarantee (a guarantee that America will not try to change the regime in Iran) for the verifiable dismantling of Iran's nuclear-weapons programme?
Mr. Bolton: We should try to change the regime in Iran. It is a threat to all of its neighbours--Arab as well as Israeli--and a threat to international peace and security more broadly. Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons clandestinely for 20 years or more. To protect and conceal their program, they have lied in the past, are lying now and will lie in the future. Even if, say, Barack Obama were prepared to give a security guarantee, the regime in Tehran would never agree to the extremely intrusive verification regime that would be necessary.
Economist: If you were advising Barack Obama, what advice would you give him on dealing with Iran? Would you suggest the use of force?
Mr. Bolton: I think he has shown so far he is impervious to realistic advice on Iran. The Iranians sleep safer at night knowing that the Carter administration's ideological descendants now govern in Washington.
Economist: What role, if any, do you see the United Nations playing in the disputes over Iran's and North Korea's nuclear-weapons programmes?
Mr. Bolton: The Security Council's sanctions against Iran and North Korea have been and almost certainly will continue to be of marginal value. Just as the Security Council was largely irrelevant to the great struggle of the last half of the twentieth century--freedom against Communism--so too it is largely on the sidelines in our contemporary struggles against international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Economist: You are a proponent of reform at the UN, and you served as permanent representative when Ban Ki-moon was selected as secretary-general. Do you think Mr Ban has made any progress in cleaning up the institution?
Mr. Bolton: Minimal progress as far as I can see.
Economist: As the Obama administration pushes for renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, do you think the administration is right to demand a total freeze on settlement building in the West Bank?
Mr. Bolton: No. I think the administration's position puts the cart before the horse. The issue of boundaries and settlements should be issues for negotiation, not a precondition to negotiations.
Economist: What parts of Mr Obama's foreign policy, if any, have you been impressed with?
Mr. Bolton: I think the administration's emphasis on Pakistan, and the risks of that regime's nuclear-weapons arsenal falling into the hands of radicals and religious extremists is extremely important, as is the understanding that what happens to the Taliban in Afghanistan figures importantly in what happens in Pakistan.
John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at AEI.